Have you ever stopped and listened to the sound of a fire crackling? The fire in the hearth is almost out, but the embers still glow. My clock chimes the hour, its sound is deep; it generates feelings of reverence and wisdom whenever I hear it. The steady ticking changes the feel of the room, slowing down time, breaking it into seconds you can almost touch. My husband gave me the clock as a birthday present a few years ago.
Last night I lay with my head on Greg’s chest, listening to his heart beat. Its rhythm steady and soothing. I thought of it pumping life into every vein and muscle in his body. The sound of a heart beating is so vital and intimate, yet its stopping is a silence like no other.
Certain sounds seem to have an endless quality. Like waves breaking on a beach, or the roar of a waterfall. Even the din of traffic from a far-off highway has that ceaseless quality. As if they will continue long after I am gone.
Like words, certain sounds bring about certain moods in me. The sound of a trickling stream causes a feeling of peace deep down. But sometimes it’s the lack of sound that creates this. I remember walking along a city street last winter in the middle of a snow storm. The snow spread itself like a blanket over the noise of the city. As the snow fell, the blanket became thicker and heavier. The crunch of snow under my step was the only sound I could hear in the stillness of the falling snow.
Then there are sounds that, for me, signify the beginning of something. The sound of birds rising at dawn and heralding the new day. A car engine turning over, or a steam whistle in the distance. There are other sounds that signify the ending of something. Like “Taps” played on a single trumpet at a soldier’s funeral; or the squealing of brakes followed by the tearing of metal.
For me, sounds not only measure time but space. They seem to go along with the places I have lived. Each home has a host of distinct sounds that make it unique. The apple farm where I grew up had some sounds I will always remember. A dog barking across the fields from miles away on a cold, star-filled night. Or the sound of frogs in the marsh filling the summer night with their calls. Like a thousand voices all trying to be heard. It was the first crowd I experienced. And it was there, on the farm, that I first heard the quiet rustle of poplar leaves sounding like tiny bits of tin foil tapping gently together. And cicadas buzzing on a hot August day.
There are certain sounds that I associate with living in Toronto. A lawn mower cutting grass and kids playing in sprinklers. Then there are sounds that I associate with our cottage. They seem so far away. The loon calling for his mate to join him every evening. The lap of water against the dock and the boats jostling in the boathouse. The sound of our paddles dipping into a still lake. The call of an owl echoing through the woods. All these sounds I associate with a certain time and place.
Today I hear the sound of the city bus as it speeds past our house. It’s becoming a familiar sound. It reminds me that the world out there is turning. That life is going by. The sound gives me an anxious feeling, suggesting there is so little time and so much to do. And as I listen, I’m drawn back to the sound of my clock ticking. Each second is gone, each minute goes by. When I’m old and grey and about to take my last breath, I hope I can hear at least one sound ― the sound of another heart beating.